Using Skype on iPad – Helping Navigate Canada’s Newest Air Travel Service

Toronto has always had this “peskily convenient” second airport, on an island in Lake Ontario a few meters from Toronto’s waterfront. Political wars have been waged over its commercial operations; endorsement for building the short bridge to the island changed the direction of a mayoral campaign a few years back (ca. 2004). So passengers must still take a two minute ferry ride from the lakeshore to get to the terminal.

Several airlines have operated short haul flights over the years, more recently often using short take-off and landing aircraft, mostly produced by Bombardier at a local aircraft production facility; these aircraft operate on many commuter airlines worldwide. The most recent Toronto City Airport passenger airline has been upstart Porter Airlines flying to cities such as Montreal, Ottawa and New York.

Today Air Canada enters the fray again, having contracted with Sky Regional Airlines to operate as Air Canada Express to Montreal, initially. A story appeared today in the Toronto Star, Plane, check. iPad, check. The pilots on this service are replacing their briefcases that carried over 50 lbs. of manuals with iPads loaded with weather and other flight information prior to the flight. One more application of the iPad as an electronic briefcase.

But there was also one interesting line from the story:

On the ground, the pilots can link up to head office with instant updates and information and even hold Skype conversations on Bluetooth equipment. But once in the air, they turn off wireless connection like other passengers, and use information that has already been downloaded.

For now they will have to operate with Skype for iPhone on the iPad and its inconvenient display format; I’m sure they would be delighted to have a version of Skype for iPad that adapts well to the iPad’s display format. But this story is interesting on several fronts:

  • It’s a classic adoption of a tablet as a replacement for a briefcase loaded down with paper.
  • The “green” factor: every pound counts when it comes to fuel costs; in this case the load is reduced by over 50 pounds on each flight.
  • A unique application for using Skype in business activity
  • Pilot documentation can be updated to the time of take-off
  • Even pilots cannot operate wireless devices during a flight in Canadian airspace.

One can speculate about one question: this is a Canadian flight service operating on Canadian-built aircraft. With all those internal systems, there must be some QNX involved. Would it not be more appropriate, at some point in the future, to use a Canadian-produced PlayBook with its Canadian-developed QNX O/S to become a more interactive tablet for supporting flight operations?

Warning to the Air Canada Express pilots: to optimize battery life ensure that the Skype is closed during flights. While the iPad has a somewhat longer battery life than an iPhone, I would still take any cautionary measure that lengthens battery life during a flight.

Photo credit: The Toronto Star

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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